How to Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree: 7 Tips

Keep your cat and holiday decorations safe all season long.

gray and white cat plays at base of christmas tree with ornaments

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

For cats, Christmas trees must look like giant sparkling play toys. Unfortunately, they also pose a danger to cats and can cause a stressful situation for cat owners.

When bringing home a Christmas tree this coming season, hold off on trimming the tree until you see how your cat reacts to it. After careful observation, you can decide what precautions are needed in order to protect your cat and ornaments. Here are seven ways to cat-proof your Christmas tree.

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Choose Your Tree Wisely

gray cat peeks out from base of christmas tree near toy train

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing your Christmas tree. First, cats who ingest resin or needles from a pine or fir tree may experience nausea or stomach injury. Those with cats that are prone to nibble on off-limits objects should consider an artificial tree.

Also, stagnant water contains bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal issues. Avoid water additives to extend tree freshness as these may contain harmful preservatives and fertilizers. 

If your kitty is likely to climb and knock over the tree, pick a smaller tree that will cause less damage if toppled. The best Christmas tree for homes with cats might be a small tabletop tree that can be closed off in another room when the kitties are out and about or to set it up in a room that's entirely out of bounds to any felines during the Christmas season.

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Spray Repellants

fresh orange peels are stuck in christmas tree branches to keep cats out

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Spray repellents can keep your cats away from the tree, and it is easy to make your own. Some cats dislike citrus scents, so try a spray of water mixed with citrus or citronella oil.

You can also place fresh lemon and orange peels around the base of the tree or within the branches. Just replace the peels every few days to maintain the fresh scent. Diluted apple cider vinegar sprayed around the base of the tree can also be a good deterrent to cats that aren't fond of the smell.

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Wrap Your Tree Base With Aluminum Foil

gray kitty hides under christmas tree surrounded by foil

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

An effective obstacle to keep cats away from a Christmas tree is aluminum foil. Wrap the tree trunk and base entirely with aluminum foil. Since most cats don’t like the sound or feel of foil, they’ll keep their distance from the tree. If you have a real tree, make sure to cover the opening of the water-filled stand with foil so that your cat isn't tempted to drink.

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Contain Cords

electrical cord covers are taped down around christmas tree to keep cat safe

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Dangling electrical cords are an invitation for cats to play and bite. If a cat bites through a cord, it can lead to burns and electrocution.

Use cord covers and tape the cords to the wall from the outlet to the tree to keep them out of your cat's reach. When decorating the tree, wrap the lights tightly around the tree trunk so they're not as accessible. And don't forget to unplug lights when you go to sleep and before you leave the house.

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Secure Your Tree

Father and son securing Christmas tree.

Elizabethsalleebauer / Getty Images

Despite all of your best efforts, your cat may still find its way into your Christmas tree. It’s important that the tree be well secured so that your curious kitty doesn’t accidentally knock the whole thing down. Start with a heavy tree stand, or add weights to a lighter stand, to keep the tree firmly on the ground. You can also attach the tree stand to a heavy piece of plywood to keep it secure.

Make sure you position the tree near a wall. Attach a thin wire or clear fishing line to the top of the tree and fasten it to the wall and/or ceiling to make sure the tree remains upright.

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Decorate Judiciously

gray cat sits under christmas tree and looks annoyed

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

If your tree is covered with sparkly, dangly baubles, it won't matter how much stinky repellant you spray on it: Your cat will be hard-pressed to resist.

For a more cat-friendly Christmas tree, don't hang any breakable decorations on the lower half of the tree. Keep the lowest branches of the tree free from all ornaments and potential temptations. Use wire to fasten ornaments to branches to reduce risk of them falling off and breaking if pawed by an eager cat.

Consider hanging bells on the lower branches of the tree so that if your cat approaches, you'll be notified by the immediate jangling and will be able to intervene more quickly.


Avoid decorating with tinsel or edible ornaments altogether. Both are hazardous to cats if ingested.

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Put Up Roadblocks

pine cones are scattered around christmas tree as roadblocks for cats

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Depending upon the size of your tree (and your kitten), you may be able to put obstacles in place that will keep your cat out of the Christmas tree. Remove chairs and tables that might serve as a launching pad to help your cat jump higher into the tree. 

An exercise pen, fence, or baby gate can also be positioned around the tree to limit your cat’s access to it. Some cats don’t like stepping on pine cones and won’t get too close if they are placed around the base of the tree. They may feel even more deterred if those annoying pine cones are sprayed with apple cider vinegar, a smell they tend to dislike.

Some cat owners have had luck surrounding their tree with crumpled-up plastic bags, lines of masking tape (sticky side up), and walls of wrapped gifts (some empty ones as fillers in the barrier). Depending on your cat's personality and preferences, these tactics may or may not work.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are Christmas trees poisonous to cats?

    Oils, sap, and resin from evergreens commonly used as Christmas trees can be poisonous to cats, and their needles can cause digestion issues and stomach injury. It's unlikely, however, that your cat would ingest enough tree to become poisoned.

  • Why do cats like Christmas trees?

    Cats are natural-born climbers. As descendants of the tree-scaling Proailurus—the "first true cat"—felines love high places, and so they might be inclined to climb your Christmas tree. Sparkly, shiny baubles don't help the situation—if anything, ornaments just look like toys.

  • Are fake Christmas trees safe for cats?

    Fake Christmas trees take the very minute risk of poisoning out of the equation, but you might find that your cat is still attracted to the tree—fake or not—because of its decorations.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our cats, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.